Have you ever shown your dog a photo of the two of you, hoping to bask in sentimentality together? That's a trick question because everyone has done exactly that.
Dogs are amazingly tuned into humans, but their eyesight is much different than ours. Can dogs actually see photographs?
We have good news for you: The answer is yes!
Most dogs' eyesight isn't amazing. Their sense of smell is primarily what they use for gathering information about the world. So it's pretty incredible that they can not only see photographs, they can recognize their owners in them.
In a study out of the University of Helsinki in Finland, researchers observed 31 dogs as they watched a video screen with various images of human and dog faces. Some of the faces were familiar to the dogs (their owner, or another dog they lived with) and some were strangers.
The researchers found that dogs were indeed able to perceive faces in the images, and that they were more likely to fix their gaze on a familiar face than an unfamiliar one. They also found that dogs seemed to prefer looking at images of other dogs over humans — even their owner. The dogs in the study looked at photos of other dogs for longer periods of time than they looked at photos of humans, regardless of whether or not the human faces were familiar.
Other studies show similar results. Across the board, dogs display the capacity to see still images and furthermore, to recognize familiar faces. This is pretty astounding because until recently, we thought only humans and primates had this ability.
So feel free to flip through photo albums with your dog when you're feeling sentimental. Just include some photos of food to make sure their attention doesn't drift.